State authorities in Puebla believe that a shocking highway attack that left a two-year-old dead could be linked to pipeline theft, a practice common in the area where the incident occurred.
Just before 3:00am Tuesday, a family traveling in a white Ford Ranger pickup truck made a pit stop on the Mexico City-Puebla freeway.
It was there that they were besieged by eight assailants who shot and killed the infant who was still in the car before attacking the boy’s father and sexually assaulting his wife and 14-year-old daughter.
The attackers then made off with the vehicle, a model popular amongst petrol pilferers, leaving the family to walk with the dead infant to a toll booth at San Martín Texmelucan in order to alert authorities.
In a radio interview with Grupo Fórmula, Puebla Attorney General Víctor Carrancá said, “The shot in the direction of the baby was not incidental, it was to intimidate because the car door didn’t open when they wanted to get in. It was a single shot that broke the glass and fatally injured the infant.”
Carrancá added that the attackers belong to a criminal group made up of young people and did not discount that some of them may be minors.
The practice of stealing fuel from Pemex pipelines is so prevalent in parts of Puebla and so entwined in the lives of local residents that a culture has formed around it.
The thieves are known as huachicoleros, which stems from a slang term used for adulterated gasoline, huachicol.
“We have some lines of investigation that we believe it could be [motivated by] vehicle theft because the vehicle they were driving is the kind that the huachicoleros use to transport fuel,” Carrancá said.
He also indicated there was no evidence that the family is involved in crime despite reports suggesting that Hilario Vázquez Pérez was also under investigation for involvement in gasoline theft and that the attack was a “settling of scores.”
A report from news site Periódico Central says that the attackers were “hunting” Vázquez and had been tracking the vehicle.
Meanwhile, the community of Santa Catarina Villanueva is in mourning for Elías Daniel Vázquez Ibañez, the innocent child who lost his life just two months shy of his third birthday.
A funeral service was held yesterday in the small town in the municipality of Quecholac, Puebla.
The family is originally from there but has been living in Chachapa where Vázquez works as a bricklayer for the Home Depot.
After his burial, family and neighbors of the deceased made calls for justice and condemned claims that the family was involved in the criminal world.
Elías’ grandfather, Carlos Vázquez, told Periódico Central, “There is news going around that it was a settling of scores when it is an issue of insecurity. Our only crime is being poor and going to other cities to work. They’ve mutilated my family, destroyed my community and infuriated us. The state governor [José Antonio Gali] is under so much pressure that he makes claims that we are criminals. We are not.”
Residents reiterated the sentiment, saying that just because they lived in the Red Triangle – a term used to describe the region where pipeline theft is particularly prevalent – doesn’t mean that their families are involved with the huachicoleros.